Why so rigid? Southgate’s in-game inertia remains a problem for England | Jacob Steinberg

In the cold light of day, the sense remains Gareth Southgate got away with how he used his bench against Slovakia

Let’s pretend there was a strategy. Let’s pretend Gareth Southgate knew that waiting until the fourth minute of added time to bring on Ivan Toney would result in the randomness of Marc Guéhi’s header from Kyle Walker’s long throw landing in just the right spot for Jude Bellingham to score a scissor kick. Let’s pretend there was evidence of some grand managerial plan coming together as England muddled their way to a face-saving victory over Slovakia in Gelsenkirchen.

There was plenty of incentive for Southgate to big up his substitutions after an unbalanced, confused team secure a quarter-final with Switzerland. Instead of facing an inquest into England exiting Euro 2024, the manager had room to talk about spirit, togetherness and desire. He could use a little diversion as he talked about giving a presentation to his players about the 1966 World Cup last month, explaining that England would not have won then without the understudies in Sir Alf Ramsey’s squad being ready to contribute when their opportunity arrived. Remember hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst coming into the team only in the quarter-final? Look over there. Is that football coming home?

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